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Creating a Safe Ceremonial Environment

At the close of our most recent women's retreat, a participant shared touching feedback. She said she had attended several Ayahuasca ceremonies, but ours was unique.

To her, it was unique in its cleanliness, and she wasn't referring to the physical aspects of the space, although we put a lot of care and attention into that as well. It was the energy of the ceremony that she was referring to.

Several other participants also expressed feeling safe, and it led me to reflect on what it means to me, to be in a safe Ayahuasca ceremony.

My teacher Mercedes isn't just a shaman, she's also a therapist, so she's very attuned to the needs of others and it translates into the way she guides and we facilitate ceremonies. It's quite a contrast to the traditional way ceremonies are facilitated, with little to no communication on the structure, what to expect, or emotional support. Mercedes understands the psychological need that many have "to know" and "understand", and the fear that can present itself when facing the unknown.

When we drink Ayahuasca, we're facing the ultimate unknown, so she sets the stage before we begin by explaining the phases of the ceremony, how it tends to unfold in terms of how it's guided, the feelings one can face, and the tools we have to support the individual or group on this voyage to the soul. We're always available to support someone having a challenging time, whether it means engaging in dialogue, using other medicines or practices that cleanse and transmute energy, or simply being present when someone needs it, so they know they're not alone.

On the more practical side of things, we're there to help you walk to the bathroom, make sure you're comfortable, and warm, there to wipe tears, vomit...whatever is needed to ensure the person in our care is ok. At the beginning of the process, before we even get to the ceremony, we review each participant's medical history so that we're aware of anything that might prevent someone from having a safe Ayahuasca ceremony experience, such as contraindications with medications.

In the energetic and invisible realm, the spaces where we hold ceremonies are carefully selected and cleansed. On a personal level, we do the inner work we have to do to show up as clean as we can. To me, this means tending to and understanding our inner world so we can truly hold space for others free of judgment, projections, or other stuff. Speaking personally, it's a never-ending process of discovering myself, increasing my awareness of my limitations, needs, and shadows, and finding the path to balance and harmony within myself.

It's a judgment-free zone. We're not there to tell anyone what to do or how to live their lives. We're there to facilitate the space for the encounter each individual has with themselves, where they find the answers they need within.

These are some of the components I feel contribute to having a safe Ayahuasca ceremony, but there are others.

While reflecting on this I was reminded of a conversation from a few months ago with a male friend who also serves Ayahuasca. He guides his ceremonies in what I would consider a more traditional way and he said to me that one of the reasons that people come to drink Ayahuasca is to overcome their mental rigidities, such as needing "to know" among other things. His perspective is that not catering to this is part of the healing process.

But, it's truly a process, and as someone who for a very long time was more embodying of the masculine energy in me, I appreciate the feminine qualities of our ceremonies more and more, and the opportunity to cultivate more of the nurturing aspects of myself. Showing up to drink Ayahuasca is hard enough. I'm so grateful to know that those who come to drink Ayahuasca with us feel safe and supported enough to surrender to the most intimate of encounters one can have with themselves.


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